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The picturesque seaside town of Picton is the South Island base for the ferry service that links the main islands of New Zealand and the heart of the Marlborough Sounds.
Picton is mostly seen as the jumping off point for New Zealand holidays further afield on the South Island. But this little portside town, nestled on the edge of Queen Charlotte Sound, is a packed with activities to experience the great Kiwi outdoors of the Marlborough Sounds on foot, boat, bicycle or even helicopter!
One of the sunniest cities in New Zealand, often known as ‘the top of the south’, Nelson takes up the northwestern corner of the South Island.
From the city centre it is an easy walk to the geographical centre of New Zealand, where you can enjoy stunning views of the city, port, Tasman Bay and surrounding mountains.
Nelson’s coast is notable for two huge, shallow bays - Tasman Bay and Golden Bay. The interior is hilly and mountainous with attractive lakes and areas of limestone and marble which feature deep caves and sinkholes. Te Waikoropupu (Pupu) springs, said to produce the clearest freshwater in the world, is part of the southern hemisphere’s deepest known cave system.
Kaikōura is a base for wildlife experiences of all kinds – it’s also a great place to eat crayfish (in the Māori language 'kai' means food, 'kōura' means crayfish). Kaikōura's environment is truly spectacular – the village is caught between the rugged Seaward Kaikōura Range and the Pacific Ocean. In winter the mountains are covered with snow, adding to the drama of the landscape.
Kaikōura’s special talent is marine mammal encounters – whales, fur seals and dolphins live permanently in the coastal waters. Whale watching trips leave the town several times a day and the local seal colony is always entertaining. There are plenty of cafés, shops and restaurants to explore
Greymouth is a town with a history of jade hunting, gold mining and dramatic river floods. Once the site of the Maori pa Mawhera (which means ‘wide spread river mouth’, in reference to the town’s river mouth location), Greymouth is considered the heart of the West Coast.
The area has a history of gold mining, which can be appreciated at the local museum and nearby Shantytown. Local brewery Monteith's is something of a New Zealand legend; it runs tours that include a tasting session.
New Zealand’s newest and second largest city - is known as the "Garden City" because of its many beautiful parks, gardens and tree-lined streets. Christchurch is proud to be an Antarctic Gateway City, one of only five in the world.
From lush vineyards and wild coastlines to sky-piercing mountains and pristine glacial lakes, Canterbury is a region of remarkable contrasts and a haven for those seeking incredible scenery and adventure.
Journey through the Southern Alps by train, investigate the night sky in the world’s largest International Dark Sky Reserve or get up close with whales in Kaikōura.
The hospitable town of Franz Josef serves the glacier of the same name. The small but lively Franz Josef Glacier village is only a few kilometres from the Franz Josef Glacier itself, and is situated at the base of the spectacular World Heritage Area.
Franz Josef Glacier was first explored in 1865 by geologist Julius von Haast, who named it after the Austrian emperor. The glacier is five kilometres from the town of the same name, and a 1.5 hour walk will take you to within 750m of its terminal face.
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is a rugged land of ice and rock, with 19 peaks over 3,000 metres including New Zealand's highest mountain, Aoraki/Mount Cook. At the foot of the mountain sits the village of Mount Cook - a comfortable haven in one of the most unforgiving parts of New Zealand and is an exceptionally beautiful place to visit. You don’t have to be a mountaineer to interact with the stunning scenery; there are various alpine walks beginning near the village.
There are many glaciers in the national park, but the most famous is the Tasman Glacier, New Zealand’s longest. The entire Mackenzie is an international dark sky reserve, so there’s no shortage of great places to view the stars. But seeing the clear night sky framed by the snow-capped Southern Alps is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The township faces north across the remarkable turquoise coloured lake to the mountainous drama of the Southern Alps. Lake Tekapo gets its intense milky-turquoise colour from the fine rock-flour (ground by glaciers) which is suspended in the water.
Picturesque by day and dazzling by night, Lake Tekapo is part of a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, making it the perfect spot for stargazing. The southern hemisphere's equivalent of the Northern Lights, Lake Tekapo is one of the best places in New Zealand to see this symphony of colour come to life. Best seen between April and September, Lake Tekapo is known for it's clear nights and lack of light pollution, making it a great viewing destination.
Head to Mount John Observatory - perched high in the mountains and south-facing - for your best chance of experiencing this spectacular natural light show.
Located in the spectacular alps of the South Island, New Zealand, is a popular ski and summer resort town. Wanaka has the buzz of a genuine alpine town and is the ultimate hub for outdoor adventures, and with Mount Aspiring National Park located close by it’s the perfect destination for exploring the Southern Alps.
For adventure seekers, you can go skydiving, canyoning, climbing or mountaineering and there are hundreds of kilometres of tracks for hiking or biking. Wanaka has a reputation for great food and wine, with a wide variety of lakefront bars, cafes and restaurants serving exceptional local cuisine, plus a wealth of artisans producing award-winning wine, beer, spirits, bread, and ice cream.
Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s most exciting destinations. Surrounded by towering mountains, positioned on the edge of a lake and is a hub of adventure, thrumming with adrenaline and an omnipresent sense of fun.
A popular holiday spot at any time of the year with activities such as bungy jumping, sky diving, canyon swinging, jet boating, horse trekking, river rafting and also if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan you’ll recognise many Middle‑earth™ locations here. Nearby Arrowtown’s gold-mining history is alive and vibrant; visit the Lakes District Museum or go gold panning. At the northern tip of Lake Wakatipu is rural Glenorchy and Paradise Valley. From here it’s a short drive into the Mt Aspiring National Park and the start of some of New Zealand’s great walks.
Oamaru boasts one of the country’s oldest public gardens, renowned Victorian architecture and two penguin colonies.
This heritage and history is proudly celebrated each November during Oamaru’s Victorian Heritage Celebrations.
Having tasted some of the unique Waitaki flavours, head to see the world’s smallest penguins in their natural environment at the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony. You can also witness the world’s rarest penguin – the yellow-eyed penguin – coming ashore at Bushy Beach. Watch from the purpose-built viewing hide so the penguins are not disturbed.
Known as the Edinburgh of New Zealand, Dunedin is the country's city of the south, wearing its Scottish heritage with pride and one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere.
See the world in Dunedin, from castles and pyramids to wildlife and beaches, you'll find it all here.
Dunedin is home to the world's only mainland-breeding albatross colony, the Royal Albatross Centre, where you'll also find sea lions, fur seals and rare penguins. All these critters reside in the Otago Peninsula and are the reason Dunedin is aptly hailed as New Zealand's Wildlife Capital
New Zealand’s southernmost city was founded in the 1850’s and with a population in excess of 53,000, Invercargill is the capital of Southland.
Fondly dubbed the "City of Water and Light", referring to the long summer daylight hours, frequent appearances of the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights), and the city’s position beside the Waihopai River estuary, Invercargill has plenty of character and a friendly, laid-back atmosphere - except when it comes to celebrating Southland’s obsession with classic motoring! Now called New Zealand’s “Classic Motoring Capital”, the city boasts an impressive vintage truck collection at Bill Richardson Transport World - the largest private collection of its type in the world.